There was an almost White Album sense of impending disaster to the events of this week’s Golden Time – and Ghost Banri didn’t even make an appearance. It’s still not clear where this very puzzling series is going with regards to possible romantic outcomes, but the sense that everything is spiralling off in a very bad direction has never been stronger. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of GB as a stand-alone factor in the series, but for now he seems to have folded his feelings into Banri’s without the memories coming with them (though I suspect that this is the first step in that process).
I have a suspicion that the general tenor about this episode is going to be negative, with most of that negativity directed at Banri. That’s as may be and even understandable, but I take a rather more positive view because I think Golden Time is doing a very good job capturing the particular cluelessness of college students when it comes to romance (and real life generally) just as WA2 is with high school students. The two series make a very interesting comparison, both because they take quite different approaches to the romance side but also because of the age-based peculiarities of the cast. And given how rare series that do that when it comes to collegians are, I’m good with seeing the kind of stuff we saw this week, even if it drives me a little crazy (and it does).
In fact, I would even go so far as to say this season offers a very interesting chance to look at three age groups and the different ways they screw up relationships. In Nagi no Asukara we see the first fumbling steps towards dealing with physical attraction to childhood friends. In White Album we see basically competent kids who screw it up by not telling each other how they feel. And in GT we see young adults capable of taking things a step further – they can talk about relationships and sex pretty openly, and are much more proactive in actually trying to get the people they like to go out with them. But in the end, they still lack the skills and experience to actually make the relationship work. All three groups of young people are screwing it up believably and sympathetically, just at different steps in the process.
I’m still waiting for Golden Time to really start identifying Kouko as the “main route” girl, and offer compelling reasons to think she and Banri belong together. But that’s a long road that we really haven’t even started to traverse yet. Kouko is a mess, this is nothing new. And I’m definitely sympathetic to her – she’s trying her best to be a good person. And she’s at least aware now that she has issues, which is a positive. But I still don’t like her (and me not being in the camp of the Hochan character is rare), I still don’t see any reason to think Banri feels anything deeply for her and I still don’t see anything good coming of their relationship. Even if she realizes she’s being a possessive shrew – and even that she can be pretty scary when she does – she still has no damn business with her “I won’t allow it!” pronouncements when he says he wants to get a job (to do things for her with the money, BTW). It’s not enough just to know you’re being a jerk – you actually have to try and stop being a jerk.
My position on Kouko is basically unchanged – she needs to get her own house in way, way better order before she should be sharing it with anyone. But Banri, for all that he has some good excuses, is really making a meal of all this. For one thing he should have stood up for himself and told Kouko whether he worked or not was none of her damn business – but ever since his bold confession, there hasn’t been a whole lot of spine from him where Kouko’s concerned. Worse still, even he knows there’s a huge problem here – he still loves Linda and wants to be with her, and that’s a major reason he puts up so good-naturedly with Kouko’s clinging, possessiveness and appalling rudeness towards Oka. But being a doormat when he’s with her and lying about what he does when he’s not is about the worst way of handling the issue.
Here’s the thing for me, though – worse though it may be, it’s pretty typical behavior for a college guy. And while Linda is superficially – and probably actually – the most mature of the three, she’s in full-avoidance mode when it comes to she and Banri confronting their feelings. That’s a huge mess, too, make no mistake, even leaving off the Kouko factor. Linda continues to be in the weird space where on the ground, she feels very much like the main girl – her scenes with Banri are by far the most powerful in the series and there’s far more of an established bond between them – but the overall presentation of the show barely acknowledges her existence. At least she managed to pop up in the preview this week, which is rare – the trend has been for her to be AWOL even if she was going to dominate the following episode.
As for the sex-trip sempai and job hijinks that made up the rest of the episode, they were – as the humor in GT normally is – hit-and-miss. I like Nana’s character and she usually manages to bring a nice edge to her scenes, but the whole business with the party fell pretty flat. There seems to be a recurring homophobia to this show which is a bit off-putting (though hardly unusual in anime) but I just don’t generally find this series to be at its best when it’s playing for broad comedy. There is a point to it, though, which is that because Nana never told Banri that Linda would be working the same job she recruited he and Yana for (I suspect quite calculatingly on her part) he’s now spending time with Linda and lying to Kouko about it. Linda undeniably looks great in that devil uniform, but there’s going to be big trouble because of this party, you can bet on that. The problem from a narrative standpoint is that Kouko and Banri could have a huge fight and break up and right now, it seems as if that would be the best thing for both of them – and we haven’t really been given any reason to think otherwise.